Magnetism III

2012

Diasec mounted Lightjet print on Kodak Premier paper

180 × 240 cm

Even if we have not taken part in it, we have all seen images of the Hajj, the great annual pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca. Ahmed's black cuboid magnet is a small simulacrum of the black-draped Ka'bah, the 'Cube', that central element of the Meccan rites. His circumambulating whirl of metallic filings mirrors in miniature the concentric tawaf of the pilgrims, their sevenfold circling of the Ka'bah.

Al-Bayt al-'Atiq, the Ancient House, to give the Ka'bah another of its names, is ancient – indeed archetypal - in more than one way. The cube is the primary building-block, and the most basic form of a built structure. And the Cube, the Ka'bah, is also Bayt Allah, the House of the One God: it was built by Abraham, the first monotheist, or in some accounts by the first man, Adam. Its site may be more ancient still: 'According to some traditions,' the thirteenth-century geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi wrote, 'the first thing God created on earth was the site of the Ka'bah. He then spread out the earth from beneath this place. Thus it is the navel of the earth and the mid-point of this lower world and the mother of villages.' The circumambulation of the pilgrims, Yaqut goes on to explain on the authority of earlier scholars, is the earthly equivalent of the angels' circling the heavenly throne of God, seeking His pleasure after they had incurred His wrath. To this day, and beyond, the Ka'bah is a focal point of atonement and expiation; in the Qur'anic phrase, 'a place of resort for mankind and a place of safety'.

Tim Mackintosh-Smith

Magnetism

by Tim Mackintosh-Smith

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